I read once that revenge was like biting a dog that bit you.
Whoever said that failed to realise everyman must bite his dog. The secret is to bite the dog first. That is what happens in the wild. When a new litter of puppies is born into the pack, the alpha dog, on their first night, bites each puppy hard on the scruff of their necks. It is important. It is their initiation into the pack. That puppy knows pain for the first time; knows its source and respects and fears it. When you first take that new puppy home, for your family; you must also do the same. You must pick up that beautiful fragile animal and bite it on the scruff of the neck until it screams. Then gather them up and smother them with love, letting them kiss your face, telling you they are sorry. That new dog must know you are in control, you are the alpha, otherwise that dog is going to bite someone you love one day.
That is now seen as bad advice.
That’s the problem with listening to advice, anyone can tell you what shoes you need to wear, but it is you who walks in them.
The door opens and the shoe salesman invites me in.
“Come in, come in we’re in the front room,” he says.
I am being unfair to you; he is not a shoe salesman. He is my court appointed therapist. I assaulted a police officer. These meetings are a condition of my bail. I follow him into the room.
“Take a seat on the couch,” he says.
I walk over to a table and pull out a normal upright dining chair. Turn it to face his far comfier armchair and sit on it instead. He looks at me and lets out a laugh.
“How are you?” he continues.
“I’m good. You?”
“Also good. Now, why did you choose to sit there?”
“It’s like you told me last week, I feel a need to have some control in my surroundings.”
“This is your third week here, the first two have been a battle of wills. Not very productive. Now, let’s just put this out here early on. How is this week going to be?”
“Better, I think.”
“This time is important, if I don’t get this opportunity right, I’ve other less palatable options.”
The therapist sat up in his chair. I could see he was already excited. The face has a certain number of tells. In poker we call it a read. The therapist, thinks he has a winning hand. He thinks he is about to have a breakthrough.
“You certainly have my attention,” he said.
“Because I can’t keep going on the way I have been. I need to solve this problem. I do a lot of reading, it brings me peace. This week I read something that struck a note in my dilemma.”
“I read, ‘We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.’ There’s the problem. I need to forgive myself. The problem is it’s impossible. I’m not, nor ever will be strong enough.”
“Are you talking about the policeman you put in hospital?”
“No, that was a public service.”
The therapist frowns at that statement.
"Why do you think it is okay to hurt a policeman?"
"Because I said so."
“Then what are you referring to?” he said.
“What happened before.”
There is just silence. It is an old trick. He will keep the pause going for a certain length of time. Then offer minimal encouragement for me to continue. You see I am opening up to him for the first time. Psychologically, I have a need to fill this silence. A need to release my burden.
“When you look at me, what do you see?” I say.
“A man in pain, real pain, share it with me.”
He made a mistake there. He should have said my name at the end. Forged that bridge; made that bond. I will ignore it.
"You are asking me to confide," I said.
"That's a big deal."
"That involves a lot; trust, responsibility, everything. Please don't say 'I know'."
This is the part where each person waits for the other to speak. It is macho bullshit. You see anybody can call themselves a therapist. Most therapists, decide to be a therapist while having therapy. Now that's a tongue twister. They sit on a couch deciding they are unhappy and need to change something in their life. They then have this moment of enlightenment, where they think I should make a difference, I should help people, I should do what this person is doing. They go on an eight week course and get some work experience. The person helping you is usually just as or even more messed up than you are. The difference being they have read a couple of books and believe they understand the world.
I decide to be the grown up and break the ice.
"I’m warning you, if I share this, let me do it my way."
"Then you are part of this, no running away, you have to deal with this."
"I’m not going anywhere. You need to trust someone. Trust me."
I pause, take a breath and begin.
“I knew a friend back in the day. He told me all about his life; the good, the bad. One day he told me about his greatest mistake. I can’t remember the guy’s name. He was a good man, or at least thought he was, lived around here. He was a family man, wife and three kids. Anyway, like all good men, he was tested. At an important business lunch, the extremely beautiful junior partner, felt his leg underneath the table. Now a good man would have brushed it aside. Offered the tiniest shake of his head. The whole thing would’ve been forgotten. He decided to let it continue. After the lunch concluded everyone returned to the office. Except my friend and this beautiful, junior partner. Stop me if you know this one.”
“Oh, no. Please continue,” he said.
“Okay. So this good man and his beautiful colleague didn’t return to the office. They went to the hotel across the street. This was the first time he had ever done such a thing. He was telling himself it was a mid-life crisis. I mean, what a midlife crisis, my friend was having. To be desired by this beautiful, smart, younger woman. Am I right?”
“Are you the friend?” he said.
“I am.” I pause and continue, “Well my friend was supposed to collect his children from a school trip that evening. The problem was, he was having too much fun. He was telling himself, he was only ever going to do this once, so why not make the most of it. He phoned his wife and said he had an emergency at work. He asked her to pick up the children. Can you guess, what happened next?”
The therapist said nothing. He even looked a little uncomfortable.
“That’s right; horrific car accident. The wife and all three kids dead. Oh, I have missed something important. The kids were called, Julie, Claire and Juniper. You would remember that last name. It sticks.”
“I had no idea, you were that John Smith. It’s inappropriate for me to be your therapist.”
He stood up, and went towards the door.
“Sit back down,” I said firmly, “Or do I have to remind you about other less palatable options.”
“I was not driving,” he said sitting down.
“That’s right your car was stolen. They ever catch who did it?”
“Sometimes the answer’s right in front of you.”
“I think you did it. I think you were so scared of losing your precious life and your fancy house, that you did not care about mine. In fact, I know you did it. I spoke to your cousin. Your cousin is the policeman I beat up. He told me everything when I was breaking his fingers. You were also driving that night, drunk. The pair of you covered it up and denied me the truth. Your cousin doesn’t like you very much.”
“He is lying.”
“No, he is not. Why did you decide to take me as a client when you knew I hurt your cousin?"
"Because, I knew I could be professional about it."
"I don't believe you. I think you did it out of some sociopathic curiosity. It has been very difficult to get to this moment. I’ve had to spend the last two weeks just trying to work out if your cousin had told you, who I was. He had to be coerced quite strongly to recommend this treatment as a condition of my release. Courts have a duty to listen to the victims. My soft punishment was understandable, when you consider my recent trauma. Mavis, my wife’s sister, works at the court. She redacted the car accident testimony from my file and made sure I was placed on your patient list. I’ve been trying to get the measure you.”
“What do you want?”
"I need to hear you say it."
"That you drove the car, that night. That you killed my family."
He doesn't say it. He meekly nods.
“You are a coward. I want to complete the remaining five weeks of my court appointed treatment. I am going to come here every week, except I’m going to ask the questions. You are going to help me heal. That’s my offer.”
“Do you think that is going to help you forgive yourself?”
“Nope, there are not enough sessions in my lifetime that can do that.”
"I know if I'd not been in that hotel; if I’d gone and picked my kids up, they would be alive. Enough variables would be different that they never would’ve met your car. My world would be unchanged. You can’t help me with that."
"Your world seems okay. You can break the law, and then break the law again. No consequences. Before, all this psychotherapy nonsense, the only man in the world who would hear your sins and pain, was the priest. I am going to be your priest; I am going to be your confessor."
“You’re going to share my burden. You’re going to carry my pain. Then I am going to offer you an appropriate penance. I’m going to be your absolution. I recommend you accept my offer. I’ve a number of options but this is your only choice. You can have the rest of this session to reflect.”
I had bared my teeth and offered my bite. I now had to wait to see if he was going to submit. With that final thought, I got up, and replaced the chair and walked towards the door. As I opened it I looked at the trembling wreck of the broken therapist.
“Same time next week?”
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Hi Tom!!! Cool story. I love the slow reveal, and the character development is great. I can picture the interaction between the two men. A few small things: I didn't know what he was mean to sit on here...when you said he sat on the dining room chair..instead (of what?): "I walk over to a table and pull out a normal upright dining chair. Turn it to face his far comfier armchair and sit on it instead." Remove the comma here: "The therapist, thinks he has a winning hand." and here: "Most therapists, decide to be a therapist while having t...
Hey. I would appreciate it if you read my last work. I'll love the critique. Thanks.
Hello, long time no see. He chooses the dining chair over the couch, a small act of defiance. The idea is his office is in his house. Thanks for the other stuff I will give it a look and clear up the chair issue.
Ah, I missed the 'sit on the couch' dialogue. Unless you added that? My eyes are playing tricks on me.😂
Not changed a thing yet
righto, then ignore my comment about the chair.
I had that problem too. I had to go back to read it then I saw it . I don't know how I skipped it in the first place.
Wow! Wh at a twist! Great job! I like the dog bite analogy.
The reveal on this took me by surprise. I was so invested in the character as a manifestation of my father-in-law. Really liked your take on the prompt and what the story developed into.
Thank you Beth for reading it.
The beginning hooked me, I went through so many different emotions while reading. This was really well done. Great!
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Hope you’ve been doing well Tom! I was wondering where this was going, and the reveal was great, especially since the protag was painted as somewhat jerk-ish at first. This was some great character interaction, the type of surreal drama you’d find in a blockbuster film. Good stuff!
Thank you for the feedback I hope you are well too.